Over 1.2 million vehicles are officially registered in South Dakota, all of which are identified by a legal document called a vehicle title. While the main purpose of a title is to establish who owns the vehicle, titles also provide vehicle information like make, model year, weight and the vehicle identification number (VIN).
As vehicles are bought and sold, the title becomes the legal documentation of each change in ownership. Both the buyer and the seller must follow specific procedures to ensure the title is properly transferred from one owner to the next.
Both buyers and sellers need to be aware of their roles and responsibilities in the titling process. Five distinct buying and selling transactions are used to illustrate possible titling scenarios. A basic checklist of documents that a vehicle owner will need to present to their county treasurer when transferring a vehicle title is also included.
There are two consumer protection sections included on the title; the age and weight of the vehicle determines what sections must be completed. For vehicles less than 10-years-old an odometer reading statement must be provided. Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 16,000 pounds or more are exempt from odometer disclosure.
State and federal laws also require that the seller provide an odometer reading at the time of sale for all vehicles less than 10-years-old. If the seller knows the odometer reading is not actual or over the mechanical limits, this must be indicated in the space provided on the back of the title.
In the event your vehicle (those less than seven 11-years-old and with gross vehicle weight rating of less than 16,000 lbs GVWR) has been damaged and declared a total loss by an insurer or self insurer, the insurer or self insurer must obtain a salvage title within 30 days of acquiring ownership of the vehicle. If you retain possession of the vehicle, it is your responsibility to obtain a salvage title prior to selling or transferring the title on the vehicle.
South Dakota is a plate with owner state. When a vehicle is sold, the owner retains the license plates, and receives any credit remaining on that plate at the time of registration, on a newly acquired vehicle. Refunds are not given if plates are not moved to a newly acquired vehicle. The plates are available for transfer only as long as they are unexpired, once expired the plates are invalid and should be destroyed. Plates cannot be placed on a vehicle until going to your local treasurer’s office.
You’ve just purchased a new or used vehicle and you’re ready to apply for a vehicle title. Use this handy checklist to ensure you have everything you need before you head to your county treasurer’s office!
Five different title transactions are illustrated below. With each scenario, you’ll find a list of steps that must be followed by the buyer and seller to correctly complete the transaction. All forms needed to complete these transactions are available from your county treasurer or may be downloaded from the Division of Motor Vehicles website at under forms. Present all of these documents to the treasurer of the county in which you live. Be prepared to pay any tax, title fees, and license fees owed.
No. 1: Buying a new or used vehicle from a dealer
When buying a new or used vehicle from a dealer, follow the steps below. In most cases the dealer will complete the paperwork for you but it’s still your responsibility to make sure no documents are missing.
Step 1: Within 45 days of the purchase of the vehicle take all paperwork to the county treasurer's office, along with a completed application for title and registration.
Step 2: For new vehicles, attach a Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO), Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO) or title that has been properly transferred to you to the completed application.
Step 3: The price certification on the title application should be completed by the dealer or attach a purchase order verifying the price paid for the vehicle.
Step 4: Complete an odometer statement, if applicable, should be attached to your application, if this information is not on the title. This is required even on new (MSO) vehicles.
Step 5: Submit your completed application, along with the other documentation listed above to the treasurer of the county you live in and pay the 4% excise tax, title fee, and any required license fees to the treasurer. If you have an unexpired county numbered plate from a vehicle that you traded, sold or destroyed, or a specialty plate, that plate may be attached to the new vehicle upon registration of the vehicle and payment of all appropriate fees.
Step 6: If you had a trade-in that is financed, the dealer is required by law to make a lien pay-off within 10 business days of receipt of the funds to make the payoff. You may want to check with your lienholder to ensure this has been done.
No. 2: Buying a vehicle from a private party
Before buying a vehicle from a private party, check the lien section on the title to make sure there are no unreleased liens against it. If there are still outstanding liens, make sure you get a lien release.
Step 1: If the seller needs the money from the sale to pay off a lien, it is recommended that you go with the seller to the lienholder to make sure the money you give them is used for that purpose. A lien release must be attached to the title if the lien is not released by the county treasurer on the title. Buyers may also obtain the lien status of a vehicle by obtaining the VIN number and using VIN Check.
Step 2: If there are plates on the vehicle return them to the previous owner, the seller should provide you with a seller’s permit, which is valid for 30 days for movement of the vehicle. Unattached or specialty plates cannot be attached to a newly acquired plates until the title has been transferred and all associated fees have been paid.
Step 3: Within 45 days of the purchase of the vehicle, complete an application for title and registration. There may be occasions when an application is not required if all of the required information is contained on the title.
Step 4: Attach the vehicle’s title, properly transferred from the seller to you, to the completed application. Make sure both of you have accurately completed all sections under on the back of the title, including the odometer section, if applicable.
Step 5: Attach a bill of sale containing the following items: complete description of vehicle (year, make, model, serial number); selling price of the vehicle; date of sale; purchaser information; and signature of the seller. Or if the information is on the title, make sure it is completed.
Step 6: Submit your completed application along with the other documentation listed above to the treasurer of the county you live in and pay the 4% excise tax (if applicable), title fee and any required license fees to the treasurer.
No. 3: Buying a vehicle in another state
If you are a South Dakota resident and you buy a vehicle (new or used) from a dealer or private party in another state, you must obtain a South Dakota title.
Step 1. Within 30 days of the purchase of the vehicle, complete an application for title and registration.
Step 2. If the vehicle is new, attach a Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO) or Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO) that has been properly transferred to you to the completed application. If the vehicle is used, attach the vehicle’s title, properly transferred from the seller to you.
Step 3. If buying from a dealer, attach a purchase order verifying the price paid for the vehicle.
Step 4. If the vehicle qualifies, make sure the seller has completed the damage disclosure and odometer statements. Attach them to the application.
Step 5. Attach a bill of sale, purchase agreement, or sales contract containing the following items: complete description of the vehicle (year, make, model, serial number); selling price of the vehicle; date of sale; purchaser information; and signature of the seller.
Step 6. Submit your completed application along with the other documentation listed above to the treasurer of the county you live in and pay the 4% excise tax, title fee and any required license fees to the treasurer.
Step 7. If you traded a vehicle be sure to file a report of sale with your treasurer’s office.
No. 4: Selling a vehicle to a private party
The following steps must be completed if you are selling a vehicle to a private party, whether in-state or out-of-state.
Step 1. Obtain a seller’s permit from your county treasurer’s office or online so that the buyer has a permit to drive on upon the sale of the vehicle. You must have a valid SD ID in order to print the permit from the customer portal. There is no fee for the permit, and the seller's permit is valid for 30 days.
Step 2. Pay off any liens against the vehicle and have the lien(s) properly released through the county. The lienholder must fill out a release-of-lien form within 20 days of receiving the final payment and deliver it to you. It is your responsibility to take the release-of-lien form to your county treasurer so the release can be properly recorded on the title document. If the lienholder has the title, they should forward it and the release-of-lien form to the county. Should the lienholder give you the title and form, this should be submitted to your county treasurer for release of the lien.
Step 3. If the vehicle is less than 10-years-old, complete the odometer section on the back of the title and attach to the application.
Step 4. Complete the seller information section and have the buyer complete the purchaser information on the back of the title. Make sure the buyer information is completed before signing as seller. If the buyer financed the purchase, the lienholder information section must be completed.
Step 5. Complete and give to the buyer a bill of sale containing the following information: complete description of the vehicle (year, make, model, serial number); selling price of the vehicle; date of sale; purchaser information; and signatures of the buyer and seller.
Step 6. It is required that you complete a seller's report of sale (MV2200) and submit it to your county treasurer's office within 15 days of the date of sale. The form is available at your country treasurer or online (SDCARS.org), the Division of Motor Vehicles, or from the forms section of the DMV's website.
No. 5: Retitling an out-of-state vehicle in South Dakota
If you move to South Dakota and bring with you a vehicle that was previously titled in another state, you have 90 days from the date of arrival to obtain a South Dakota title. There are four steps to follow:
Step 1. Complete an application for title and registration.
Step 2. Attach the out-of-state title to the completed application.
Step 3. If the vehicle is less than 10-years-old, complete an odometer reading form and attach it to your completed application.
Step 4. Submit your completed application along with the other documentation listed above to the treasurer of the county to which you have moved and pay the correct amount of excise tax (if applicable), title fee and any required license fees to the treasurer.
NOTE: If you have already paid tax on the vehicle to another state, and that tax is equal to or greater than South Dakota’s 4% excise tax, you will owe no tax. If the tax already paid is less than South Dakota’s, you will receive credit for the tax previously paid and will be assessed tax up to the 4%. Further proof that you paid the tax, other than the title in your name, may be required. If sufficient proof of previous tax paid by the applicant cannot be furnished, the county treasurer will collect the 4% motor vehicle excise tax on the retail value of the motor vehicle listed in the National Automobile Dealers' Used Car Guide (NADA).
For more information
For more information about titling procedures or buying and selling vehicles in South Dakota, contact your local county treasurer’s office or the Division of Motor Vehicles in Pierre. If you do not receive your title from the seller within 45 days from date of purchase, you should file a written complaint along with a copy of your purchase agreement to: Division of Motor Vehicles, 445 East Capitol Avenue, Pierre, SD 57501 or at the division’s website.